Germany

The Munich Crisis

Not satisfied with only Austria, Hitler began demanding parts of Czechoslovakia, too. In September 1938, with war against Germany seeming increasingly likely, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich (according to a British Pathe newsreel, his first trip in an aeroplane), to meet the German leader. His aim of this ‘mission of peace’ was to secure a guarantee that there’d be no further German aggression.

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The Gathering Storm

On 12 March 1938, Austria was annexed into the German Third Reich. Despite pressure from both Austrian and German Nazis, Austria’s Chancellor had tried to hold a referendum for a vote on whether the Austrian people wanted to remain autonomous but a well-planned attack on Austria’s state institutions by the Austrian Nazi Party, on 11 March, meant the vote was cancelled. Power was transferred to Germany and Hitler’s troops entered Austria and on 13 March, Hitler proclaimed: the union of Austria and Germany.

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Action This Day Summer 1891, Summer 1916, Spring 1941

Finest Hour 173, Summer 2016 Page 36 By Michael McMenamin 125 Years ago Summer 1891 • Age 16 “A Head for My Room” Lord Randolph was still in South Africa on business during the summer when he received Winston’s letter recounting, among other things, the abandoned factory windows he and some other Harrow students had […]

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Not Just Hot Air

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 41

Review by Chris Sterling

Leon Bennett, Churchill’s War Against the Zeppelin 1914–18: Men, Machines and Tactics, Helion, 2015, 406 pages, $59.95. ISBN 978-1909982840


Churchill’s War Against the ZeppelinLong interested in both airship history and Churchill, I had high expectations for this book that melds both topics. To a great extent they were met, though with a few frustrations along the way.

Leon Bennett’s book centers on the German Zeppelin (airship) bombing raids against England (and especially London) during the First World War and the defense measures taken to meet the new air threat. German fliers tried to bomb the city for months after the war began in August 1914, but initially managed only sporadic raids against easy-to-find coastal towns. Weather was often the chief culprit—especially capricious winds that could push the huge rigid airships miles off course. Crude nighttime navigation was hit or miss, often the latter. British airships (also covered here) faced the same limitations—a key reason that Churchill, after initial enthusiasm, became a consistent critic of the technology. Despite his misgivings, however, the British continued their expensive airship program after the war until the R 101 tragedy in 1930 shut down the effort.

When the huge and clumsy Zeppelins succeeding in hitting something in the Great War, public panic far exceeded the casualties or physical damage. For here was an invasion for which, at first, there seemed no defense. Gradually the fledgling British Royal Flying Corps and Naval Air Service developed methods of fighting the floating “baby killers,” including the use of searchlights and anti-aircraft guns, plus slowly improving fighter aircraft. The airship’s chief weakness was its reliance on highly flammable Read More >

Scapa Flow: The Churchill Barriers

Finest Hour 171, Winter 2016

Page 22

By Terry Reardon


In the first volume of his Second World War memoirs, Winston Churchill published the following account based on a German report:

At 01.30 on October 14, 1939, H.M.S. Royal Oak, lying at anchor in Scapa Flow, was torpedoed by U.47 (Lieutenant Prien). The operation had been carefully planned by Admiral Doenitz himself, the Flag Officer (Submarines). Prien left Kiel on October 8…course N.N.W., Scapa Flow….The boat crept steadily closer to Holm Sound, the eastern approach to Scapa Flow. Unfortunate it was [for the British] that these channels had not been completely blocked. A narrow passage lay open between two sunken ships. With great skill Prien steered through the swirling waters….Then suddenly the whole bay opened out. Kirk Sound was passed. They were in. There under the land to the north could be seen the great shadow of a battleship lying on the water, with the great mast rising above it like a piece of filigree on a black cloth. Near, nearer—all tubes clear—no alarm, no sound but the lap of the water, the low hiss of air pressure and the sharp click of a tube lever. Los! [Fire!]—five seconds—ten seconds—twenty seconds. Then came a shattering explosion, and a great pillar of water rose in the darkness. Prien waited some minutes to fire another salvo. Tubes ready. Fire! The torpedoes hit amidships, and there followed a series of crashing explosions. H.M.S. Royal Oak sank, with the loss of 786 officers and men…. U.47 crept quietly away back through the gap.1
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Books, Arts & Curiosities – The Troubled Trio

Finest Hour 170, Fall 2015

Page 39

Review by Warren F. Kimball

Kaarel Piirimäe, Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Baltic Question: Allied Relations during the Second World War, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, xvi + 276 pages, $90.
ISBN 978-1137442369


Baltic QuestionThis book’s cover accurately labels the Baltic nations “a neglected corner of wartime Europe.” But Josef Stalin never neglected them, occupying Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania without ceremony in June 1940. He had waited while fighting the Winter War with Finland in the hope that the three states would Sovietize themselves— which they did not. The swift fall of France that spring only fed Stalin’s suspicions that some sort of Anglo-German entente was afoot, prompting his move.

What could the little Baltic states do? Caught between the Soviet Union and Germany, they had no political leverage and even less military strength. All they really had was their own sense of cultural and (to a somewhat exaggerated degree) historic nationalism. As with Finland, the West reflexively empathized and sympathized (though much less noisily)—and did nothing. Whether the West could have done anything effective is what this book is about.

The stage was set for the entire war by the initial reactions of Britain and the United States: reactions too minor to be called policy. The personal involvement of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt showed equal indifference. Soviet concerns and reactions were far more important to the two leaders than awkward promises of self-determination made in the Atlantic Charter.
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“Our Beloved Winston Churchill” – Churchill and Anne Frank

Finest Hour 170, Fall 2015

Page 15

By David Freeman


Anne FrankThe greatest book of the twentieth century is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Anne’s tragically short biography is well known. She was born on 12 June 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany, a city with a long and rich history of Jewish culture. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, her family emigrated to the Netherlands and settled in Amsterdam.

Anne adored her adoptive country, but following the German invasion of the Netherlands in the spring of 1940 (on the day Churchill became prime minister), Anne’s father Otto began to make arrangements to hide his family from the inevitable Nazi roundup of Jews.

On 6 July 1942 the Franks and another family went into hiding together in a specially prepared “secret annex” at the back of a warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal, now home to the Anne Frank Museum. Altogether there were eight people in seclusion: Anne, her sister Margot, their parents Otto and Edith, Hermann and Auguste Van Pels (known as the Van Daans in the book), their sixteen-year-old son Peter, and, starting in November 1942, Fritz Pfeffer (an elderly dentist known in the book as Mr. Dussel).
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“A Crime Without a Name” – Churchill, Zionism, & the Holocaust

Finest Hour 170, Fall 2015

Page 06

By David Patterson

Professor David Patterson holds the Hillel A. Feinberg Chair in Holocaust Studies in the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas.


churchill and the jews

Malcolm MacDonald, the son of Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. As Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1939, he produced the controversial White Paper restricting Jewish immigration into Palestine.

Sir Winston Churchill was known for his foresight. Just as he saw the gathering storm over Europe long before the Second World War broke out, so he understood early on the singularity of what we now call the Holocaust, Shoah, Churban, Final Solution, Judenvernichtung, or simply, in Paul Celan’s words, “that which happened.”1 In his radio broadcast of 24 August 1941, just two months after the Einsatzgruppen killing units began the systematic murder of the Jewish people, Churchill announced that Jews in “whole districts are being exterminated,” adding, “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.”2

Well before the Nazis were gassing and burning Jews in the six extermination camps a year later, Churchill understood that what was to be called the Holocaust was something more than mass murder, something more than the annihilation of a people.3 Unlike most others, he had some sense of just what the Nazis set out to exterminate in their total extermination of the Jews, from Tromsø to Tunis, namely, the millennial teaching and testimony that the Jewish people represent by their very presence in the world.

Churchill’s insight into this aspect of the nameless crime can be seen in his view of the Zionists’ effort to seek a haven for the Jews in the Land of the Covenant. When as First Lord of the Admiralty he first met with Zionist leader Chaim Read More >

Inside the Journals

Finest Hour 162, Spring 2014

Page 45

Abstracts by Antoine Capet


GERMANY AND DISARMAMENT BETWEEN THE WARS

“British Conservative Opinion and the Problem of Germany after the First World War,” by Greg S. Parsons, International History Review 35/4 (2013) : 863-83.

This work examines British Tory attitudes towards the Weimar Republic through the lens of several issues from the 1918 Armistice to the 1923 Ruhr Crisis. A curious feature of British Conservative opinion at that time was its consistent hostility towards the new democratic German state. To be sure, Britain had fought a long and costly war with Germany, and passions had not cooled. Though from late 1918, the German government was committed to democratic principles Britain claimed to favour, many Tories doubted that the change was genuine or stable. During its formative years the Weimar Republic faced challenges that would have tested any nation. Political and economic conditions within Germany undermined the new government’s prospects; yet many Tories refused to consider these challenges. Ironically, the attitudes of British Conservatives added to the difficulties Weimar Germany faced in dealing with the postwar world.  
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“This Guide Is Called Honour” – WINSTON S. CHURCHILL ON MUNICH IN 1948

Finest Hour 162, Spring 2014

Page 30


For some years it seemed that the question whether Britain and France were wise or foolish in the Munich episode would become a matter of long historical controversy. However, the revelations which have been made from German sources and particularly at the Nuremberg Trials, have rendered this unlikely. (218)

The Soviet Proffer

[In March 1938 the Russians] wished to discuss, if only in outline, ways and means of implementing the Franco-Soviet pact within the frame of League action in the event of a major threat to peace by Germany. This met with little warmth in Paris and London. The French Government was distracted by other preoccupations. There were serious strikes in the aircraft factories. Franco’s armies were driving deep into the territory of Communist Spain. Chamberlain was both sceptical and depressed. He profoundly disagreed with my interpretation of the dangers ahead and the means of combating them. I had been urging the prospects of a Franco-British-Russian alliance as the only hope of checking the Nazi onrush….the Prime Minister expressed his mood in a letter to his sister on March 20: “The plan of the ‘Grand Alliance,’ as Winston calls it, had occurred to me long before he mentioned it….You have only to look at the map to see that nothing that France or we could do could possibly save Czechoslovakia.”…Here was at any rate a decision. It was taken on wrong arguments.
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Munich Timeline

Finest Hour 162, Spring 2014

Page 28

Compiled by Michael McMenamin and the Editor


1938

18 March: Soviet Union proposes conference with Britain and France on implementing the Franco-Soviet pact in event of German aggression.

20 March: Chamberlain: “I have abandoned any idea of giving guarantees to Czechoslovakia, or to the French.”

28 March: Hitler tells Sudeten Nazi Henlein to make “unacceptable demands” on the Czech government.

21 May: Czech army on alert. Britain and France warn Hitler, who is perceived to have backed down.

28 May: Hitler, furious at perceptions that he yielded, declares, “Czechoslovakia shall be wiped off the map.”
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Regime Change, 1938: Did Chamberlain “Miss the Bus”?

Finest Hour 162, Spring 2014

Page 22

By Michael McMenamin


“It was to the interest of the parties concerned after they were the prisoners of the Allies to dwell upon their efforts for peace. There can be no doubt however of the existence of the plot at this moment, and of serious measures taken to make it effective.”
—Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 1948

“I myself still believe that Hitler missed the bus last September and that his generals won’t let him risk a major war now.”
—Neville Chamberlain to his sister, May 1939

“A mind sequestered in its own delusions is to reason invincible.”  —Dante

In the early morning hours of 28 September 1938, a fifty-man Stosstrupp, a commando raiding party, assembled at Army headquarters of the Berlin Military District, home to General Erwin von Witzleben’s Third Army Corps. Commanded by Captain Friedrich Wilhelm Heinz of the Abwehr (Military Intelligence) the group comprised young, hand-picked anti-Nazis, half of whom were serving officers. The men were issued automatic weapons, ammunition and hand grenades furnished by Lieutenant Colonel Helmuth Groscurth of the Abwehr, who had been ordered to do so by Abwehr chief Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.1
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Munich and Its Alternative: The Case for Resistance

Finest Hour 162, Spring 2014

Page 16

By Williamson Murray


“You have only to look at the map…to see that nothing that France or we could do could possibly save Czechoslovakia from being overrun by the Germans, if they wanted to do it. I have therefore abandoned any idea of giving guarantees to Czechoslovakia, or to the French in connection with her obligations to that country.”
—Neville Chamberlain to his sister, 20 March 1938

“How erroneous Mr. Chamberlain’s private and earnest reasoning appears when we cast our minds forward to the guarantee he was to give to Poland within a year, after all the strategic value of Czechoslovakia had been cast away, and Hitler’s power and prestige had almost doubled!”
—Winston S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm, 1948

“In consequence of Wehrmacht demands and unlimited construction on the Westwall, so tense a situation in the economic sector occurred that the continuation of the tension past October 10 would have made a catastrophe inevitable.”
—Reich Defense Committee, October 1938
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Munich in Retrospect: Was It Better to Fight in 1938?

Finest Hour 162, Spring 2014

Page 12

By Richard M. Langworth

Here we stir the embers of the past and light the beacons of the future. Old flags are raised anew; the passions of vanished generations awake; beneath the shell-torn soil of the twentieth century the bones of long dead warriors and victims are exposed. And the wail of lost causes sounds in the wind.”
—Churchill, The Aftermath, 1929


The 75th anniversary of Munich last autumn was marked by analogies. During the uproar over Syria’s chemical weapons, the American Secretary of State declared, “This is our Munich moment.” Later his opponents called easing sanctions on Iran “another Munich.” Both comparisons were inapt, except as examples of that lack of resolve which is part of human nature. Germany in 1938 was at once a greater threat, and less suicidal, than today’s villains. Iranian mullahs, by contrast, declare martydrom a path to glory. At least for their co-religionists. And now we have Ukraine, on which more analogies will be drawn about when and when not to stand firm.

That the Nazis were not suicidal is I think significant. In the autumn of 1938, high-ranking Germans had a credible plan to depose Hitler if the Anglo-French stood firm at Munich. A defeat for Hitler was not inconceivable. The French army was partly mobilized, the Royal Navy fully mobilized. Munich’s by-products were a demoralized France and an unassailable Hitler.
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Datelines

Finest Hour 162, Spring 2014

Page 5


Quotation of the Season

I am convinced that there is nothing [The Russians] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than weakness…. We cannot afford… To work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength.”
—WSC, FULTON, MISSOURI, 5 MARCH 1946

Hitler Wins One

MOUNTAINVIEW, CALIF, DECEMBER 16TH— Silicon Valley proclaims Adolf Hitler seventh on a new table of significant persons, while Sir Winston Churchill ranks a mere 37th, according to Tom Kelly in the Daily Mail. One wonders where Hitler would rank if Churchill hadn’t been around in 1940.
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